Day 17: Weekend Read

When I decided to do weekend reads I had said they would be easy reads…well, this week it would b e a lie to say my pick is easy. It’s small, if that counts for anything, and most of you have probably had to read it before, so it should be familiar, but even as I reread it now, I am realizing what a complex book it is. This week’s weekend read is:


by George Orwell

I know, I know. Heavy. But here is the thing, this is a GREAT book, and now more than ever is it important for us to read and heed this book. “Big Brother” is every where and they are watching you. From government controlled lunches in Chicago to 7th graders being questioned about their Facebook posts, you are all being watched, and it is getting easier and easier for them to do it. Hell, if some sicko can install a program on your computer and watch you and photograph you then what is to stop Big Brother from doing the same?

For those of you not familiar with 1984, it is the dystopian story of “protagonist Winston Smith… a civil servant responsible for perpetuating the Party’s propaganda by revising historical records to render the Party omniscient and always correct, yet his meager existence disillusions him to the point of seeking rebellion against Big Brother.”* And this is what we are waiting for…the sh*t to rain down! And I warn you, it is coming my friends. Viva la revolution!

Ahem…anyway… read or reread this book. The message is hefty, but the writing is profound and eerie, and inspiring, and definitely worth giving a read, particularly now, with your adult eyes. Let them open, my friends, let them open and see.


Day 16: Happy Bloomsday!

Today is Bloomsday! Get out and celebrate! What? You don’t know of Bloomsday?

Bloomsday is a commemoration observed annually on June 16th in Dublin and elsewhere to celebrate the life of Irish writer James Joyce and relive the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which took place on the same day in Dublin in 1904. Joyce chose the date because his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle happened on that day, when they walked to the Dublin urban village of Ringsend. The name derives from Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses.


Of most of the people I know, I stand alone in my love for this book. As a matter of fact, I think I may stand alone in my love for James Joyce. Paralleling Odysseus by Homer, Joyce walks us through one day, June 16th, of the main character, Leopold Bloom, his wife, and his friend Stephen Dedalus (Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.) Originally, and understandably so, published in serial form in 1918-1921 in the The Little Review,  it was then published in its entirety in 1922.  The serial version was put to a stop due to its profane nature, at with point it was compile and published as a whole.

I love this book because of what it does for literature–not only for its deep roots in Homer, but for the wholeness of the story. We often sit and discuss our days over dinner–at least Jason and I do, and we touch on the main points leaving out all of the details. Ulysses covers one interesting day in the life of Leopold Bloom completely, from the big events of the day to the minutia. It is real, and rough, and raw. It is about compassion, love, desire, and grief; about a need for family; about sex. It is about lives of the 3 central characters and how they intersect and intertwine, and effect them all. It is truly a novel about life and deserves to be celebrated.

So pour yourself a Guinness or a glass of whiskey and raise a glass to Mr. James Joyce and the novel Ulysses!  To Mr. Joyce, Happy Bloomsday–and happy anniversary of your first date!

(P.S., you are going to need a few more pints of the black stuff to get you through it too,  because at 512 pages, it is quite the work of fiction.)

P.S.S. In NYC today they are celebrating with Bloomsday on Broadway , which will be celebrating its own 30th anniversary of the James Joyce/Ulysses marathon at Symphony Space. If you are not in the NYC area, which I am not, you can watch a live stream on Facebook.

Day 14: Awesome Books

If you find yourself in the Bloomfield/Garfield/Friendship section of Penn Avenue, you will no doubt see this sign looming outside a small shop next to SPAK BROS. PizzaIf you have not seen the sign, you can’t miss the spot where this little artist owned bookstore, Awesome Books, is hiding. Nestled between two of Penn Avenue’s brightest attractions this new little gem is not to be missed. With scads and scads of used books on site, and a thousand more in storage, Awesome Books is everything that the modern book industry is missing.

As I have said before, I work for Borders, and I just about died when I got the job, I was so excited. I remember when I interviewed, the manager that I met with told me the pay–$6.25/hour to start, as a cashier, and I was crushed. I wasn’t going to leave a $16+/hour job as a waitress to work for $6/ hour as a cashier. I had a degree! I had retail experience! I was a manager damn it! (Lucky for me I put that out there and got hired at a bit higher of a rate, as a supervisor.) But I really wanted to work in a bookstore. Something she said to me when she told me my wage has stuck with me for all of these years and although I still find it as pretentious now as I did that day, it still rings true–to some extent. She said to me, “People don’t work here for the money; they work here because they love books.” And that is true. The pay sucks, the benefits suck, and often your discount sucks, BUT the people who work there love books.

Now I am sure you have all seen the news spewing the terror that is besetting Borders Inc. It often makes me sad to think that the company is in such dire straights and there is the looming risk of closure. But in toady’s reader market, small business is where the money is. More often than not our store is treated more like a restaurant, a library, a school, a concert hall, and a phone booth than it is a bookstore. People don’t buy any more. Thousands of titles sit on the shelves to be skimmed over, spilled on, spines broken, and pages folded never to be purchased because online venues can sell it to them cheaper or they can downloaded it for practically free. Places like Borders are used by the masses to get out of the house for the night and get a cup of coffee for $1.85.

However, since the money problems really started to show at Borders, I have been telling my co-workers that their saving grace is going to be stock reduction and specialization. Focus on what is really selling in your area, reduce the quantities of stock that is not selling, and get rid of the music, movies, and cafe. Do what you are there to do–sell books. And that, my friends is what Awesome Books is doing.

You can see Gillian, the attendant that helped me today, working on a mosaic in the back.

When you walk into Awesome Books it feels like you are walking into someone’s home library. You can smell the paper, and the cloth, and the dust, and the wood of the floors, not burnt coffee and Chlorox. It is quiet, like a bookshop should be and warm. The homeyness is amplified by the cats  playing in the corner and under your feet, and the single employee sitting on the couch working on some art project or another.

The selection is small, but comprehensive, and everything is used. They have new and old titles alike in everything from falling apart to like new condition. And like any corporate books store out there, they can get you anything you want, if you are willing to wait a bit. Quick story. A few weeks back I went in with a list of books I needed for my book club and began to hit the shelves. They had none of them, and I was surprised, because many of them were popular or classic titles. That day Laura Jean McLaughlin, one of the owners, was working, and I began to ask her about some of the titles. She was so kind. She took down the titles and authors that I was looking for and took my number and told me she would give me a call if any of them came in. I wrote it off as never going to happen and began looking elsewhere for the titles. Wouldn’t you know it, just under a week later, she called me back to tell me she had two of them in stock! I couldn’t get it from Amazon that fast! And what struck me was that she remembered and actually called back. In a big corporate bookstore, even with computers reminding us everyday of who needs a phone call, we are lucky if we can remember to email. And here this woman was offering me personal service for a used book, from a list she had written down on some scrap of paper.

This is what is missing from chain stores, and it is something that they will never have…heart. The employees have it, but the store never will, because there are a thousand clones of it all around the world. And with the pressures of big business, and contracted coffee shops, and political correctness, and looming foreclosures, all the book loving people in the country could work in your storefront and you won’t have the warmth you feel at a small privately owned shop.This is where the business needs to move to, they need to de-evolve. Borders, you have taken on too much, and you need to step down. Let go of what is not selling and stick to what you are good at–selling BOOKS.

Here is a quick tour of Awesome Books, on Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh:

Window seat one,

Windows seat two. Oh, and that is poetry hiding on that little bookshelf.

Fiction, Bios and new arrivals (the rolling cart and top shelf boxes down the center aisle)

Art, Children's , Poli-Sci and others...

Psychology and Sociology there on the right and that little shelf had VERY OLD books on it along with music titles and an portrait of Walt Whitman on the wall.

Ms. McLaughlin's studio in the back

The cats.

I want to say I am not completely knocking where I work…I really do love that place, but in this day and age, when so many people are clinging to their e-books, those of us who need the touch, the taste, the smell, the heart of a real, live book–and it truly is a need–we need a place like Awesome Books. We crave a place where our friends, enemies, lovers, and muses can live, and thrive and have their adventures in a place that is just for them. No music, no movies, no download kiosks and no coffee shops. If you want coffee, buy a book at Awesome Books. You get a free cup from Oh Yeah! Ice Cream with every purchase.

Go mooch off them for a place to hang out.

Day 13: Perks revisited…

This will be a quick one, as I have a ton of work to do today.

Here are some pictures of the building where they were shooting Perks a few weeks ago. Enjoy! (warning…these are boring, but I thought it might be nice to have a reference point when you are watching the movie 🙂 )


Oh how did that get in there?? 🙂

Isn’t he a cutie 😉


Day 10: Weekend Read

In honor of yesterday’s recipe today’s weekend read is…you guessed it…

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone

by J.K. Rowling

Now I know it is hard to imagine that there is anyone left in the world that hasn’t read this book yet, but believe it or not there is. I have friends that haven’t read it!

In the first novel, orphaned and down trodden Harry Potter is doomed to an unhappy life with his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin. But on his 11th birthday a GIANT surprise is thrust into his lap in the form of a very large man, a very messy cake, and an invitation to attend a school for wizards which, you guessed it, he is! But evil is afoot and it is up to Harry and his friends to battle evil and prove that goodness, kindness, and true love will always conquer all.

This book can be picked up in paperback for around $7. If you haven’t read it yet, read it. If you have, pull it off the shelf, dust it off, and read it again, because this book changed history.

For those of you out there that haven’t read it OR feel it may be time to revisit it here is a refresher from some of the media sources as to why you should:

 Publisher’s Weekly
Readers are in for a delightful romp with this award-winning debut from a British author who dances in the footsteps of P.L. Travers and Roald Dahl.

USA Today
You don’t have to be a wizard or a kid to appreciate the spell cast by Harry Potter.

The true hero of this summer’s reading season is likely to be Harry Potter.

The true hero of this summer’s reading season is likely to be Harry Potter.

USA Today
You don’t have to be a wizard or a kid to appreciate the spell cast by Harry Potter.

The New York Times Book Review – Michael Winerip
A wonderful first novel….Harry is destined for greatness. Much like Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling has a gift for keeping the emotions, fears and triumphs of her characters on a human scale, even while the supernatural is popping out all over.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling. This first book of the wildly popular Harry Potter series has sparked the imagination of an entire generation of young readers and inspired those with a few more years under their belts too. The cultural impact the Harry Potter series has had on the world is unmistakable.

from 50 Books That Changed the World

Day 9: A recipe…

So I am thinking of throwing a Harry Potter Party for the last movie release… but I am not sure I want the fuss. Primarily I want an excuse to make all the wonderful Harry Potter food in the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. Although, today’s recipe is not in there…

Today, or tonight we are making butterbeer. 🙂


Butterbeer-for grown ups


  • Butterscotch Schnapps
  • Cream Soda
  • Vanilla Ice Cream
  • butter (optional)–use real butter


  1. In the bottom of a pint glass place 1 small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  2. Add 2-3 jiggers of butterscotch schnapps.
  3. Top, carefully*, with cream soda.
  4. If you choose you can swirl in a half tsp of melted butter (use salted to bring out the flavors) to finish it off.

*the purpose of the ice cream is to create the beer foam head. As with any float it will foam a lot so keep that in mind as you pour.

Day 8: Your chick card is showing–Spoiler Alert

I really try not to fall into the chick lit out there, I really do, but occasionally I find myself in denial.  And they say when you have an addiction, the first step to over coming it is admitting you have a problem, so here it goes.

My name is Ellē, and I am a Twihard. Yes, it is true. I remember when I finally gave in and became and addict; it was 9:00 pm on August 1, 2008.

I was helping run the Breaking Dawn release party at my Borders. Before then I had never even touched the series to shelve it.  I knew nothing about it except that it was an obsessive love story about a girl and a vampire. I did know that one of my co-workers who is a teacher steered parents of younger children away from it due to the obsessive nature. And I was definitely one of those people who got all defensive about the Vampires or Wizards argument (ok so my nerd card is showing too…) because nothing, NOTHING in the children’s/YA vampire category beats Harry Potter. I stand by that statement. There is no comparison. If I had to choose, Potter will always win over vampires. ALWAYS!!

Any whoozle, I was working this party because I always worked the midnight release parties [they are so much fun] and on my break I decided to pick up Twilight and give it a skim. I figured it would be nice to see what it was that I was here to promote. Now, I am not going to go into a full on review, today, but while the writing was not fantabulous in the first novel, the voice sucked you in instantly and the story kept the heart and the blood pumping.  I was hooked. I read all 4 books in 10 days.  It consumed my life for a week and a half, and then I re-read it at a slower pace.

Actually, funny story, while I was reading Eclipse–I have a very distinct memory of reading this one as it is my favorite of the four– at some point I had a day off work. That day I remember I got up and had breakfast with my husband and the minute he walked out the door I plopped on the couch and starting reading. When I couldn’t hold it anymore I got up to go to the bathroom and looked at the clock and it was 11:45 am! My husband [fiance at the time] had left at 9:00 and would be home for lunch in 15 minutes! I rushed through getting ready for the day and was just coming out from getting dressed (I had been in my pjs) when he walked in the door, Eek! Now a normal person would say to themselves, “ok you have wasted your entire morning, make it up this afternoon.” But no, I went right back to the book the minute he walked out the door. I finally tore myself away  in time to make dinner, but only for an hour. At the time we [my husband] were building a retaining wall in our backyard. Immediately after dinner he went out to work on the wall, while I did the dishes. 3 hours later he came in to wash up and get ready for bed and I was still working on the dishes! I had a rhythm..was three dishes, read a chapter, wash three dishes, read a chapter–this was before we had a dish washer–it is embarrassing to think about even now…

And so obsession was born. The movies are not as big of a deal, however, I have been to the midnight release of them all, and they were good enough [I am not going to review them all at this time] that my husband is addicted at well. However, the movies are what I am here to talk about–Breaking Dawn Part I to be precise. Has anyone not seen this trailer yet??? If you haven’:

Now I need to ask you, as readers not viewers, what do you think? As a fan of the books and a reluctant movie lover [I like the films, but they don’t do the books justice,] I feel like they are giving EVERYTHING away. While I understand the idea with movies is to bring in ALL viewers, for those of us committed to the story, this feels like a total jip [I guess my age is showing too…who says jip anymore?]  Before I actually read the first sentence of Twilight I heard the opening chapter of Breaking Dawn, at the party. I remember the swooning and the shrieking of the teens, and the undeniable romance of the story in their reactions to telling Charlie about the engagement.  [Spoiler alert…NOW] But with this trailer, telling Charlie about the engagement, telling Renee about the engagement, the wedding, the honeymoon, and the pregnancy are THE BIG ITEMS ON THE LIST when it come to Breaking Dawn. And they are all ALL covered in the TEASER!!!!!!!!!!! What is left for the trailer, better yet what is left for the MOVIE!?!?!?!? Yes we are waiting on the details, but everything has been given away…well almost everything.  I guess I wanted some mystery. I have been waiting and waiting for this trailer and here it is, disappointment at every turn. And they are splitting this book into two. What is left besides the birth for the second one? The film looks great, but…I wanted somethings to be a surprise and they are giving everything away! I am just so…what is the word…disheartened? by this trailer, I just don’t know what to say besides see the movie anyway… fingers crossed it will be more comprehensive…

Day 7: Freshly Pressed

This morning while perusing WordPress’ Freshly Pressed section I came upon a photo blog titled “Portraits of the ‘book man.'” I feel the need to share this little photo blog post because I fear that this is going to be me some day…

Click to see the photo blog for jacob murphy

If someone ever gave me a store front this is exactly what it would look like. Heck, this is what my home office looks like now…

Day 6: The Line

A few weeks ago I was looking for a new title by an up and comer and based on my previous purchases online (they are tracking everything you know…) The Line by Teri Hall was recommended. This book is a whopping 244 pages and is written in size 14 font and yet I have been reading it for going on 2 months now and am only a ⅓ of the way through it. Now I will be the first to admit that since I have had a child the energy  I can devote to reading has been drastically reduced, but still. I just can not get into it. And it SUCKS because I had such high hopes for it.

The story so far is very boring. Aside from one minor action point in the very beginning of the book, the remaining pages have been nothing but filler. But it sounded so awesome. Futuristic “Unified States” under complete government control and complete lock down to keep “Them” out at the same time keeping us in.

Sounds like a great read! I just hope it gets better and picks up otherwise I am really going to have to start questioning the reviewers that gave it such a big thumbs up…

Day 3: Weekend Read

I am thinking of starting a weekly section called the Weekend Read to be posted on Fridays so that if you are looking to read a book over the weekend (or on vacation) you have a place to find a good title. How does that sound to everyone? As if you all have nothing else to do on the weekend.

The Weekend Read will be a fairly easy read that an average reader can knock off in 2 or 3 days, will be entertaining, generally lighthearted, and will be something I have already read.

Are we agreed then? Yes? Good.

So, for the first Weekend Read suggestion and review we have…drum roll please…

Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris 

For those of you familiar with the Sookie Stackhouse Series or with the show True Blood on HBO, this will definitely suit your reading style. Although, if you are looking for vampires, werewolves and other supernatural critters, this is not going to be your book. Shakespeare’s Landlord  is the first book in the Lily Bard Mysteries series and it is a perfect little murder mystery blended with just the right amount of romance to make it a little naughty and a lot of fun. Set in the tiny town of Shakespeare, Arkansas, this whole series centers around a quiet girl with a rough past and the mysteries that ensue when privacy and self protection are your only concerns.

When maid-for-hire Lily Bard discovers the dead body of her nebbie landlord while out on a late night walk her grand plan for starting a new, quiet life in the little town of Shakespeare is thrown out the window, and replaced by mystery, intrigue, murder and sex.

Not one of Harris’ best works of fiction (although the series gets better as you go along,) Shakespeare’s Landlord draws you in and keeps the pages turning. At only 214 pages it could easily be read in a long weekend, or short, rainy or lazy one.  It is fun, sexy, and makes you want more. I would give it 3 ½ stars for story quality and 4 for readability and fun.

Oh! and if you are one of those people trying to read a book a week for a year and are finding yourself behind, this is a great way to knock one off the list.

Have a great weekend!

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